Loose Gravel jazzing it up

Georgia Straight Jazz Society presents group March 5 at Avalanche

The Georgia Straight Jazz Society keeps it local this week with Loose Gravel on March 5.  Comprising five recognized Valley musicians, the band plays largely from the “West Coast Cool School” of jazz, but without the sound of a piano or guitar.

“We’ve taken the Gerry Mulligan Quartet material from 1952-53 as a kicking-off point,” says bassist James Lithgow in an interview the other day. That quartet featured Mulligan on baritone sax, Chet Baker trumpet, Bob Whitlock bass and Chico Hamilton on drums.  Often enough Baker was replaced by Bob Brookmeyer on trombone, but Loose Gravel liked the sound of the three horns, so it’s a quintet.”

There are differences large and small between the original Mulligan band and today’s Loose Gravel.

“Whitlock had a pencil thin moustache and we don’t have one of those between us,” says Lithgow, “Instead we stole the idea of no piano or guitar holding down the harmony.”

After a couple of years of playing together these somewhat disparate and diverse personalities have forged a musical unit that rests comfortably on the ear, yet challenges the usual jazz combo lineup.

Additionally, Loose Gravel Quintet features well known multi-instrumentalist Oscar Robles as the other half of Lithgow’s rhythm section. Robles brings not just jazz drumming skills but a real wealth of experience from Flamenco, Funk and World-Beat.  While percussion is his main role in Loose Gravel, Robles is also well known for playing guitar and the Stick, a multi-stringed instrument.

“We keep Oscar on the drum as our principal format choice, but as you know, he’s expressive on any percussion from standard kit to dinner cutlery.”

On the front line of Loose Gravel is band-leader Tony Morrison, bringing a multi-reed tool kit of saxophones and flute.  Tony is familiar to local audiences across a wide range of styles.  Jay Havelaar, on trumpet and flugelhorn, is a musician’s musician, and often the first call in this part of the world for a soloist in any format.

“Originally we were going to get Jay to sing a few tunes a la Chet Baker, but Jay very quickly pointed out that Baker didn’t sing with the Mulligan band in ’52, and besides, he didn’t think there was an audience that would pay to hear him sing,” added Lithgow.

Rounding out the horns is Jeff Agopsowicz, who, along with Nick La Riviere, is half of the Victoria-based Trombone Mayhem.

“Jeff is a recent transplant to the North Island who cut his musical teeth with the military’s Naden Band.” Jay, Jeff and Tony have many years in larger ensembles and relish the opportunity to dig deeper into the melodic content of familiar tunes, especially with the unusual setting of the piano-less Loose Gravel.

“We stick pretty close to original arrangements for all our material, but leave a lot of room for melodic and harmonic spontaneity,” adds Morrison.

“We’re not confined to West Coast Cool,” Lithgow said. “The band does mine earlier and later jazz eras for their material, including tunes by Sidney Bechet, Thelonious Monk, and Duke Ellington.

Come down on Thursday evening and enjoy the sounds of Loose Gravel at the Avalanche Bar and Grill.  Attendance is $10 for Jazz Society members and $12 for non-members.  Show time is 7:30 p.m. A special dinner menu is available.


Just Posted

Affordable rental housing complex opens in Courtenay

The Braidwood facility will house 34 people at risk of homelessness

Applications open for record bursary, scholarship funding at North Island College

Current and future North Island College students can now apply for scholarships… Continue reading

Second Stage Players present laughter and love in We Are Family

Get your tickets early to see the Evergreen Club’s Second Stage Players’… Continue reading

Open house opens access for those suffering from vision loss

Pat Chicquen understands how isolating losing vision can be, which is why… Continue reading

Valley SPCA overwhelmed with 45 cats taken from local property

Many of the cats have never been around humans, or have never been touched or handled.

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Comox Valley Hospice Society finds new Ocean Front home

Comox Valley Hospice Society (CVHS) recently announced plans to construct a new… Continue reading

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

Too Good To Pass Up

Erin Haluschak Record staff… Continue reading

Most Read